Blast from the Past: Machine Head – Burn My Eyes

The question has been uttered more than few times; if Machine Head‘s 1994 debut had been released in the the 8o’s would it have been so highly acclaimed? Or is its release coming years after the apparent decline in popularity of thrash, its reasoning for being a so called “landmark” record?

Now, 17 years later, and with another Machine Head album on the horizon, it seems like the perfect time to look back on Burn My Eyes, to acknowledge its success and evaluate whether its stood the test of time and if it really is the classic so many claim it to be.

Make the jump to read the review.

Machine Head – Burn My Eyes (1994)

1. Davidian – 4:55
2. Old – 4:05
3. A Thousand Lies – 6:13
4. None But My Own – 6:14
5. The Rage To Overcome – 4:46
6. Death Church – 6:32
7. A Nation On Fire – 5:33
8. Blood For Blood – 3:40
9. I’m Your God Now – 5:50
10. Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies – 2:45
11. Block – 5:00

Released in 1994, Burn My Eyes successfully built upon the movement made in the San Francisco Bay Area by Thrash legions Exodus, Testament, and Death Angel, among other bands, whilst bridging the gap between the 80’s era thrash acts and modern metal. The album came in a time when metal was becoming less “cool”, Metallica had decided to write hard rock music, and grunge was reigning supreme. At this point, perhaps the closest band in style to Machine Head, was Pantera, but by then, even they were arguably past their peak, depending who you talk to.

Before Machine Head seemingly “sold out” and dipped their toes into the nu metal craze (personally I like to pretend that never happened, and that between 1998 and 2003, the band merely did not exist), and before they started writing a much more epic and melodic style of thrash and groove metal, the band began with what can only be described as flesh ripping brutality. The album opens with what is one of the greatest metal tracks of all time, the now legendary ‘Davidian’, a track so well renowned that even glorified pop acts such as Lostprophets have covered it, and is a perfect example of the “flesh ripping brutality” on display. The track is of course well known for the infamous line “let freedom ring with a shotgun blast” which fucking slays.

Lyrically, the album is Robb Flynn possibly at his best. In my opinion, Robb isn’t the best lyricist ever, but it is the rawness and sincerity in his voice that brings with it great power on this record. Much of the album deals with social injustice, disorder, inner tensions and political commentary. The common theme between songs works well for Burn My Eyes and helps to paint a picture of the social disorder the band were exposed to.

Musically, the band were on fire and displayed a powerful command of their instruments. The riffs were tight, the speed was fast, but there were still hooks and hints of melody. Original Machine Head guitarist Logan occasionally plays some beautiful clean sections, particularly in track 9 ‘I’m Your God Now’. In addition, Robb even offers some relatively decent clean singing, despite this album being the band’s least melodic effort (unless you count Supercharger, which is so awful it can barely be described as music). Track 4 ‘None But My Own’ also has some atmospheric, eerie verses that add dynamics and variety to the songwriting.

Many fans will argue that with 2007’s The Blackening, the band reached their peak, and I wouldn’t hesitate to agree. However, that’s not to say Burn My Eyes doesn’t have its place. First of all, there are (and believe me, there really are) some more elitist metalheads and Head fans that regard The Blackening as heavily overrated, full of “long for the sake of being long”, more commercially melodic songs (although how anyone can call an album that opens with a 10+ minute track, a commercial sell out, is beyond me). Burn My Eyes displays a raw aggression and youthful ambition that cannot be found in any of Machine Head‘s later albums. The groove is intense and the album proves to be monstrous piece of metal, with riffs that could remove hair from your scalp, and shred your ear drums.

To respond to my opening statement, and question, how does Burn My Eyes stand in 2011? Was the praise so high, because of the time of the album’s release, rather than the merit of actual musical quality? The answer is honestly, no. Time has little to do with the praise of the album. 17 years later Burn My Eyes is still frankly one of the greatest records I have ever heard. The band proved they could work with different time signatures, and themes, and make it work. In fact, they did a damn good job and nothing ever sounded forced. If Pantera had set a new standard in the early 90’s, then Machine Head proved they had everything to step up to the plate and bring a new wave of heaviness to the table.

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